Moeen Ali became the first bowler in The Oval’s 100 Test-history to take a hat-trick as England wrapped up a crushing 239-run win in the third Test against South Africa on Monday.
Victory put England 2-1 up in this four-match series, with just the fourth Test at Old Trafford starting on Friday to come.
After having Dean Elgar (136) and Kagiso Rabada (nought) caught at first slip by Ben Stokes with the last two balls of his 16th over, off-spinner Ali ended The Oval’s landmark match when he had Morne Morkel lbw with the first ball of his next over — although England had to first review umpire Joel Wilson’s not out decision.
“I was very confident it was out, as soon as it hit his pad,” Ali told Sky Sports of his hat-trick delivery.
“It was a great feeling.” Ali’s treble saw him become the 13th England bowler to take a hat-trick at this level, with South Africa’s second innings the first in the 140-year history of Test cricket to include four first-ball ducks.
South Africa, set a mammoth 492 for victory, were all out for 252 after lunch, with Worcestershire all-rounder Ali taking four for 45.
“What a way to celebrate the 100th Test at this ground,” said England captain Joe Root.
He added that England’s first-innings batting, with man-of-the-match Stokes making 112 and former captain Alastair Cook 88 in a total of 353, had laid the platform for an emphatic success.
“I think the way we batted in the first innings was really important and set a good benchmark for us.
“Alastair Cook’s innings was crucial — we could have gone five or six down but the way he played was brilliant.”
The way this series has see-sawed — England won the first Test at Lord’s by 211 runs and South Africa took the second at Trent Bridge by 340 runs — will give the Proteas hope of bouncing back in Manchester.
“At no point have we made excuses — we know Trent Bridge wasn’t good enough, we’ve responded,” said Root.
South Africa were hampered by key seamer Vernon Philander, the man-of-the-match at Trent Bridge, being off the field for much of this Test with a viral infection.
“It’s obvious to say that someone like Vernon Philander missing out on that first innings was costly, so they got 100 runs too many in that innings, but you have to say the English team batted well,” said South Africa captain Faf du Plessis.
South Africa resumed on Monday on 117 for four, with left-handed opener Elgar (72 not out) and Temba Bavuma (16 not out) having already helped the Proteas recover from 52 for four on Sunday.
Victory was all but beyond South Africa, with no side having made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test than the West Indies’ 418 for seven against Australia at St John’s in 2003.
Middlesex seamer Toby Roland-Jones, who had followed up his stunning Test debut bowling innings return of five for 57 by dismissing star batsman Hashim Amla cheaply for the second time in the match on Sunday, eventually ended a stand worth 108 runs.
His full-length delivery struck Bavuma on the pad as the diminutive batsman got only half-forward.
Aleem Dar ruled not out but England reviewed the experienced Pakistani umpire’s decision and Bavuma had to go for 32 after a defiant innings of more than two hours.
There was no need for a review next ball as South Africa’s 160 for five became 160 for six when Philander inexplicably padded up to Roland-Jones and was plumb lbw.
The 30-year-old Elgar, batting with a bruised finger, battled on for his eighth century in 38 Tests by lofting Ali over mid-off for a 16th four in 149 balls.
But Chris Morris, who survived Roland-Jones’s hat-trick delivery, fell to the last ball before lunch when he edged Ali to man-of-the-match Stokes to leave the Proteas 205 for seven.
Elgar’s more than five-and-half hours at the crease ended when he prodded forward to Ali and Stokes did the rest.